Telemedicine is the treatment of patients through the use of telecommunications in situations where the health professional and the patient are not in the same area. As developments in telecommunication technologies have expanded the capabilities of telemedicine, the use of telemedicine has increased dramatically. And with the wide adoption of this form of health care comes a whole list of laws to consider, both as a medical practitioner and as a patient. So let’s take a look at what you need to know about telemedicine and the law.

As medical practitioners try to keep up with the constant stream of new laws and safely navigate the gray areas in this dynamic, shifting environment, there are some who will be hesitant to give telemedicine a chance for fear of accidentally overstepping legal boundaries. Equally, some patients are likely to be overwhelmed by the changes, and this may make them decide against telemedicine when it very well may be the best option available. However, with time, the undeniable effectiveness and cost-efficiency of this industry will guarantee that its laws accurately represent both doctors and patients. This will leave health practitioners feeling confident working with telemedicine to bring the vast number of benefits it provides to patients across the country.

Knowing your rights allows you to ensure you are kept safe, legally. With that in mind, we’ve created a list of 10 things you should know about telemedicine and the law.

1.  Telemedicine Doesn’t Include…

According to Health Care Law Today, telemedicine doesn’t include “audio only” phone calls, email, or fax correspondence. Images and videos must supplement any form of communication in order for it to be considered telemedical. confirms this.

Divan Medical - laws

It’s important to familiarize yourself with telemedicine and the law to ensure you’re being treated right as a patient, or treating your patients right as a medical practitioner.

2. Telemedicine Is Only Available If…

In order to qualify for telemedicine, you must be located within a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA). As well as this, they must be seeking one of the following types of medical health facilities:

  • A physician
  • A hospital
  • Community mental health center
  • Rural health clinic
  • Critical access hospital
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Federally qualified health center
  • Renal dialysis center

3. Telemedicine Isn’t a Substitute

Telemedicine does not overrule the need for bedside contact or a patient-doctor relationship; nor does it substitute standard medicine. It is supplemental and to be used in times where traditional medicine is not feasible.

4. Telemonitoring is Not Always the Way

Telemonitoring relates to the control of vital signals at a distance, through systems not dependent on any particular doctor and often portable by the patient. These systems send alarm signals to remote control centers. There are many scenarios in which telemonitoring should not be used. For example, if a patient has a disease, illness, or wound that which may require urgent care, then relying on telemonitoring may be considered malpractice.

Divan Medical - doctor in lab

In some cases, in-person treatments or observations are required by law in addition to (or instead of) telemedicine.

5. Telemedicine is Both a Health Care Service and an Information Service

This means that regulations regarding both types of service are applicable to telemedicine and both should be considered as a medical practitioner. For example, information services have their own laws regarding privacy of information.

6. Telemedicine is Still Young

As telemedicine is still in its early development stages, the laws surrounding it have yet to deal with all of the intricacies it brings. This means both patients and health practitioners may be unprotected in certain ways. It also means that already established laws may evolve or be entirely redefined.

7. The Laws In Each State Differ

As the approach taken to telemedicine and the law differs significantly from state to state. It is important not to confuse the telemedicine laws of one state with another. Both the doctor and the patient are expected to uphold the law of the state in which the patient currently resides.

Despite the fact that every state’s laws, regulations, and Medicaid program policies differ, there are certain ideas that are consistent throughout. For example, live video Medicaid reimbursement persistently exceeds reimbursement for remote patient monitoring and store-and-forward (the process by which information is sent and stored in a halfway station to be sent at a later time to the final destination).

So there you have it: the top seven things you should know about telemedicine and the law. Keeping them in mind, you’ll be better able to protect yourself, both as a patient and a health practitioner. As telemedicine is built on telecommunications, the constant and rapid advancement in telecommunication technologies means that the capabilities of telemedicine are developing at an astonishing rate. This is, of course, an incredibly positive thing. It will help improve the physical and mental health of many patients in rural, isolated areas, patients with limited mobility, and patients with anxiety disorders. At the same time, it will also help to reduce health care costs, which can, in turn, be used to fuel even better health care – a positive, upward cycle. However, it is important to realize that with such rapid developments, the laws surrounding telemedicine will likely also change rapidly. With that in mind, if you have any skin in the game, keep yourself informed and your information up-to-date.